Ocean Township school officials are hoping voters will turn out Tues., Dec. 9 to approve a $28.9 million bond referendum to pay for improvements to all five district schools. Approving the referendum will not add anything to the current school tax rate for debt service.
Taxpayers will cast their votes during a special election at their regular polling places from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
School Superintendent James Stefankiewicz said Tuesday that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the referendum passing, saying it is “desperately needed in the district.”
“We are trying to plan for the needs of our school district for the next 20 years, both educationally and on facilities,” he said.
School officials held public meetings on the referendum in October and November and another one is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 8- a day before the referendum vote. The meeting will be at the High School, beginning at 7 p.m.
Schools Superintendent James Stefankiewicz said this Monday’s meeting is part of his ongoing Evening With The Superintendent series.
“But it will be the night before the vote so I imagine this may be a hot discussion item- but people can bring up any issue they want to talk about,” he said.
Stefankiewicz said the school district is trying to be proactive about getting residents to vote on the referendum by sending notices home with students and posting detailed information on the school district’s web site: www.OceanSchools.org.
“The feedback, so far, has been very positive, overall. People recognize we need necessary facility additions and they like the fact that we are retiring existing debt and not adding to the tax rate,” he said.
Stefankiewicz that he has heard the term “no-brainer used a lot” but that he and the school board are not taking anything for granted.
“We are trying to keep the public as informed as possible and it’s important to get out the vote- that’s the most important thing,” he said.
He said school officials have also met with every PTA in the district and they, in turn, are getting information to voters through their newsletters and other media sources.
“I encourage people to get informed and vote. It’s the most important thing,” Stefankiewicz said.
School Business Administrator Kenneth Jannarone said that now is the perfect time financially to make such a move.
“In this case, we are not incurring any additional debt and the interest rates are very low,” he said.
Jannarone said that the bonds to pay for the referendum will be paid off over a 20-year period but not add any additional burden to taxpayers.
“If it passes, the additional cost for debt service would not increase from what taxpayers are paying now. There will be no additional debt service because these bonds will replace bonds issued in 1995, which will be paid off. We are basically replacing one debt service with another and, actually, this one is a little less,” he said.
If approved, bonds will be issued next year and improvement and renovation projects throughout the district would begin in the summer of next year and into 2016.
Wanamassa Elementary School, built in 1930, is the oldest in the district. In 1995, kindergarten classes were added and, in 2012, a first-grade wing and new library were added.
“Children still eat their lunch in the classroom and it’s a health and safety issue,” Stefankiewicz said.
Additional classrooms, a new gym, additions to the art and music rooms, and creating a cafeteria in the former multi-purpose room are part of the renovation project.